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Credit Fraud Prevention Tips
Lost Wallet or Stolen Wallet – A Serious Identity Theft Risk
As frustrating as it is to lose your glasses or another everyday item, losing your wallet is downright dangerous. Whether you’ve simply misplaced it or someone has snatched it, you can’t help but feel nervous about the exposure of your personal information.
The things you carry in your wallet form the basis of your identity: your driver’s license, debit cards, credit cards and more. Thus, a stolen wallet can form the groundwork of identity theft. Be sure you’re prepared to act quickly in order to minimize your risk of identity theft in the event of a lost wallet or stolen wallet.
Smart wallet tips:
- Don’t carry anything you don’t need in your wallet or purse. This includes your Social Security card, extra credit cards, birth certificate, voter’s registration card and PINs or passwords you’ve written down on paper.
- Know what’s in your wallet so you know whom to contact in the event of a lost wallet or stolen wallet. You can make copies of the front and back of your cards, including driver’s license and medical insurance, or write down the account numbers and contact information. Store the copies or list in a secure place at home.
- If available, request credit and debit cards with your photo on the front. Instead of signing the back, write “please ask for photo id” to minimize the risk of identity theft and your cards being used by anyone but you.
- Help prevent fraud by alerting local law enforcement, your bank, your credit card issuers, your medical insurer, your state’s DMV and other appropriate agencies as soon as you realize you have a lost wallet or stolen wallet situation on your hands.
Make Online Security a Daily Priority
From day to day, the rewards of the digital age typically overshadow the risks. That is, until a scam, virus or other malicious attack puts your computer or identity in danger.
Cyber crimes can extensively damage your computer or other devices and rob you of personal information. That’s why it’s important to use security software and be cautious. By doing so, you can protect the investment you’ve made in your computer equipment as well as your overall finances and identity.
Cyber crimes cost computer users in the United States nearly $560 million in 2009 alone.1 Cyber security is your main line of defense. Be sure you are well equipped with anti-virus software, a firewall, an updated operating system and a file-backup system. With new cyber threats constantly emerging, security is an ongoing battle.
Think before you:
Viruses and Trojan Horses, which criminals use to takeover computers, often need your help to activate and infect your computer. Disguised as a video, attachment or link, these malware (malicious code) programs download to your computer once you click on a targeted link.
Once information goes online, it stays online. Each and every one of your search terms links back to your computer’s IP (Internet protocol) address through your browser, so be careful what you type.
Be wary of websites that ask for more information than is really needed to set up an account or conduct a transaction. Also be careful not to over share on social networking sites. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute indicates a lack of concern for security.2 Be sure you use privacy controls to limit access to your personal information on all networking sites.
If You Believe You Are a Fraud Victim
If you believe you are a fraud victim, you may find the following suggestions helpful:
Protect yourself: A 90-day security alert gives you time to verify if you are a fraud victim. If you determine you are a fraud victim, you may add a seven-year extended victim statement to your credit report.
- Inform creditors: Contact all creditors associated with the account and inform them that the account is fraudulent.
- Document all contacts: Make notes on everyone you speak with. Ask for names, department names and phone extensions, and record the date you speak with each person.
- Understand the process: Each creditor may have a different process for handling a fraud claim. Make sure you understand exactly what is expected from you, and then ask what you can expect from the creditor. At the conclusion of an investigation, ask the creditor for a document that states you are not responsible for the debt.
- Follow up: Make sure everything a creditor/credit reporting agency has requested is received. It is always a good idea to place a follow-up call or send a letter for confirmation.
- Review credit reports regularly: Obtain another credit report several months after you believe everything is cleared up. If a new fraudulent account is discovered, you will know how to handle it. If your credit report is back to normal, you can feel confident that all issues were resolved as you expected. It’s a good idea to check your credit report again in six months and then one year later.
- Do not throw away files: Keep all notes and correspondence related to the fraud incident in an accessible file in case they are needed in the future.
What Credit Reporting Agencies Do to Prevent Fraud
Experian® and the other two credit reporting agencies take steps to protect your credit information. These fraud prevention practices include:
- Dropping several digits from each of your credit account numbers and your Social Security number on your personal credit report.
- Offering fraud prevention products to ensure the integrity of the credit database and to protect consumers and creditors
- Continually monitoring access to databases with software that detects unusual activity for immediate investigation
- Working with law enforcement to catch fraud perpetrators
- Requiring a business to designate a permissible purpose under federal law before it can access consumer credit information
- Following procedures to ensure that only reputable businesses are accepted as clients
- Building barriers to prevent computer hackers from accessing consumer credit data
1. FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
2. Ponemon Institute: Identity and Privacy in Social Media, June 2010